A friend is besotted with a gorgeous pair of very pricey suede trousers. She’s having a hard time convincing herself that they are a want and not a need – which is important, as she cannot afford them.
A couple of years ago this friend, then a very successful lawyer, took a step away from her corporate career to study and become a part-time therapist. Her pay doesn’t stretch enough to cover the cost of these trousers, and she doesn’t like the idea of going to her husband for extra cash. “It’s as though I’m asking for permission.”
She shared her frustration with some mothers at her children’s school – and lo and behold, a whole new world was opened up to her. They admonished her and talked her through a system that they use in these situations. This is how it works:
Find out how much cash you have, and use it – or a chunk of it. Cash is not traceable and your significant other will never know what it’s been spent on.
Have a few credit cards available for you to use. Divide the rest of the cost by the number of cards.
Look at changing the amounts slightly so they’re not equal.
Find a willing sales assistant to ring it all through.
You are now the very happy owner of a beautiful pair of suede trousers, or an extortionately expensive bag, or whatever else takes your fancy.
How fascinating. It would appear that this is an entrenched, much-lived-by code of conduct by some. That is news to me, my friend and others whom I have mentioned it to.
This touches on many things, including who controls access to money, control in general and how women are viewed by society.
Some people deem women wily. This is either because they are genuinely untrustworthy, or it comes about because they, with little or no money of their own, are reduced to finding ways around restrictive, controlling husbands.
As one friend put it, why would you want to be in a relationship like this? But many are.
This particular friend had written a cheque out to a club that her husband wanted to join. She forgot to transfer money to her current account to cover the annual expense, and was mortified to get notification from the bank that her cheque had bounced. She called the club, explained the situation, asked them to present the cheque once again as she had sorted out her balance, then proceeded to beg the person on the other end of the line not to let her husband know. He found this amusing, and, after much guffawing, agreed.
The club employee implicitly understood the name of the hiding game – that she was a woman who didn’t want to get in trouble with her husband.
The two cases of deception aren’t at all similar. The first amounts to being fraudulent. The second is a genuine oversight – both parties knew about the expense, but the husband would have been mortified to learn that his membership fee had bounced. It was a case of pride and ego. Theirs is a marriage based on equality and full disclosure – well, not when it came to this incident – but the same cannot be said for a growing number of marriages here in the UAE if we’re to extrapolate from surveys carried out in places such as the United Kingdom and United States.
One poll out earlier this year in the US found that one in five Americans hides $500 spent on things from their partner. While $500 might not seem like much, for many, this is the difference between making it through the month or spiralling into debt. And unlike my two stories, the women are not the biggest offenders – 26 per cent of men versus 14 per cent of women surveyed hid extra expenses from their spouse.
Whatever the reasons, cheating on your partner financially is simply cheating on your partner. If you’re reduced to living like this, look at why, then how to remedy it. It’s easier said than done. But nothing beats a life based on trust, honour, equality and sharing. Be brave.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website cashy.me. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org